It’s All About Me.

I am not a ME person.  I don’t like talking about me.  I don’t like people looking at me.  I don’t like people touching me.  All of that makes me really, really nervous…and twitchy.

If you have spent any time around me, you know “It’s all about me,” is something I say.  In conversations with friends, I say it.  My family jokes about it.  At my jobs, present and past, I have been known to wail,  “Come on you guys! Don’t you get it?  It’s all about me!”  When I worked at Job Corps it  was my slogan, “Look at me. Listen to me. Hang out with me.  IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.”

Obviously the reality is/was NONE of it is really about me.  It was really all about the stories, the work, the people, and the effort to make progress, take action, touch lives.

I am not a ME person.  I don’t like talking about me.  I don’t like people looking at me.  I don’t like people touching me.  All of that makes me really, really nervous…and twitchy.

Ohhh I know some of you might be thinking,  “Bull! I know Denise and she is the loudest, most talkative person in the room! Any room!”  And that’s true, too.  I can be that person. Sometimes I am that person. I mean, get me talking and I will probably tell you anything.  Take a road trip with me and you will know my life story. But having a big mouth and wanting to be the center of attention are two different things.

The real me, the one whom only my closest friends knows, recognize that even the thought of people looking at me freaks me out.  My clothes, my hair, my makeup?  That sh*t’s about anxiety.  If people HAVE to look at me at least I want to feel good about myself while they do it.

Once I found out a guy from another department thought I was pretty.  I should have thought that a nice compliment and moved on with my life.  Instead, it freaked me out.  I went out of my way to avoid that guy AT ALL COSTS.  If I had to walk by him, I may have mumbled a hello, but that’s it.  I never had a conversation with the guy.  I was too damn freaked out.

dont look
You can look at my Etsy shop from here though… Wordsmithstudios on www.etsy.com/shop/wordsmithstudios

When the subject of my Etsy shop comes up I get all twitchy.  Yes, I paint.  I sell those paintings on Etsy.  No, I do not want to talk to you about it and please don’t tell me you love my “work.”  And please, whatever you do, don’t open the gift I made for you (probably agonized over giving you) in front of me or the crowd of people here at your party. ugh.

If I have a medical scare or issue, I am not telling you. Or anyone.  Oh, hell no.  I might say something about it later in casual conversation, cause that’s Big Mouth Denise. “Yeah, I had a melanoma scare once, too” But I am not going to call a family meeting to make a health statement. Or call my mom to specifically tell her about it.  I just can’t do it.

I don’t really even want to share the little things.  My first brand new car on social media? Probably not.  Probably not the pics of the first time I run into something with my new ride either.  Or the 2nd time. Or the 3rd…Ok, there might even have been a 4th, but I’m not going to announce it.

All of those things drive my mother crazy.  She feels like she’s always the last to know everything.  She isn’t always and it isn’t personal. The only other people who know are those I run into at the grocery store or the halls at work, but do they even count?  I know, I know,  she IS my mom and feels like I should tell her stuff.  Or I should at least tell her before I tell anyone else.  I get that.  I just don’t tell people stuff in an intentional way.

I guess for me sharing  happens organically.  You know, stuff just comes out in its own way and time.  Or it gets puked out by my big mouth.  Yeahhhh, organically is a good way to describe it.

P.S. Mom, I also use curbside pick-up at the grocery store WAY more often now so no need to worry about the grocery store people at least 😉 

Four Areas of Focus

After my layoff for the first time in a long time I felt defeated.  It wasn’t just the layoff.  It was years in a toxic, unsupportive environment.  So when I walked away (or was pushed),  I felt like I was leaving pieces of myself behind me.  I was this broken hull of a shell and the pieces were falling away bit by bit all the way home.  Like Hansel and Gretel except I was walking away from the scary monster instead of toward it.

The problem was, what I was walking toward was also scary.  It was a form with no shape, and I was a shape with no form.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Restorative Justice helped me bring my life back into focus.  (See A Rebuilding Year or restorativejustice.org for more info) A restorative plan is broken into 4 parts that address Community,  Family,  Self,  and Victim (those who have been harmed.)  Those were the 4 areas that brought me back to life.

Family  

It started with my family.  It was the perfect time of year for that–smack in the middle of the holidays– and I was completely immersed.  I could keep busy with holiday planning and all the cheer and chaos that comes with the holidays.

In my last post I said I would be talking about dinner again and here it is.  Dinner, as much as I hated it when I was working became my grounding force.  No matter what else had gone on during the day, no matter how sh*tty I may have felt, I knew I had to pull it together and make something for dinner.  Everyone was thankful to be eating and that feedback filled me up.  Seems like a simple thing now, but at the time, it was huge.

I am also so thankful for how supportive my family was throughout my layoff.  Even when it was approaching 6 months, my husband never complained to me about money and my kids always reinforced how glad they were I was home.  My parents and extended family never implied I was being lazy; they all just supported the idea I would find something when I was ready.

Self

I didn’t lay around feeling sorry for myself.  I got to work doing things I wanted to do.  I really wanted to blog, so one of the first things I did was start my blog back up.  In the beginning, it helped me to process my situation in ways I wouldn’t otherwise have been able.  I look back at my posts now and I can see my healing pattern.

I revamped my Etsy site and painted like crazy.  Then I started reorganizing my house and cleaning things out.  I blogged about cleaning out my closets.  When I got to my own closet, I was horrified to realize I had so many clothes!  Some things I hadn’t even worn more than once and not because I didn’t want to, but because of the sheer VOLUME of things I had. (The money and time spent on all those clothes is another blog post in itself.)

Some research led me to a selling app called PoshMark.  I literally just started selling off my clothes. (You can get $5 of free credit on PoshMark if you use WORDSMITHSHOP when you sign up).  I can’t communicate the sense of relief I felt from purging my closet. It was like shedding another layer of stress every time I sold an article of clothing. I am still selling and the feeling hasn’t stopped.

Victim

In Restorative Justice, the victim is the one who was harmed and the work focuses on how to repair the harm that has been done.

I never saw myself as a victim during the time I was employed or unemployed.  I would have described myself as angry, defeated, bitter, or hurt, but never as a victim.

God Friended Me
We watch God Friended Me on CBS and Miles the main character, summed up my life during one of his podcasts.

However, when I look back objectively, I can see that I was “victimized.”  I realize that’s a strong word, but it’s also accurate. There was a significant amount of workplace manipulation and intimidation that happened in the company that I had to manage personally. My unemployment was just the grand finale.

I also accept that I made many mistakes as an employee.  Those mistakes were offset by many more highlights.  I learned more than I could ever write about in any blog and I gained more than I ever lost.  That is my truth.

However, my experiences left me scared and my fear snowballed.  The fear made me question everything and the more I questioned, the more fearful I became.  I put pressure on myself.  What if I couldn’t find a job?  Or worse, what if I couldn’t find a job I liked or that didn’t make a difference?  (I can feel my chest tightening even as I write this and relive those thoughts).   If I found a job opportunity or was approached with a job opportunity,  I would panic.  I was afraid of ending up in a situation like I had just left.

Finally, a part-time position opened at a local university that looked interesting. I did my research, applied, interviewed, and got the job.  It turned out to be just what I needed.

A bonus benefit for working there is free education. While I am part-time, I can take classes for free and if I decide to go full-time, my family can go for free.  10 years ago I started my graduate degree, but life got in the way and I never finished.  It has been something I have always wanted to complete.  The timing was perfect.

The part-time hours would also allow me to continue focusing on the Restorative Justice cases which were coming in consistently.  It was becoming clear to me that my passion for meaningful work would be found there.

Community 

Perhaps the single most important lesson I learned in the past year is that I can make a difference no matter where I am or where I work.  I don’t have to sit on boards or gain national attention or even strategize ridiculous office politics to make an impact.

I’ve made important connections in the local community on behalf of Restorative Justice and youth involved in the juvenile justice system. The work is meaningful, interesting, and fulfilling and I enjoy it more than I ever expected.  It really is magic. Magic that I accomplish in only 10 or 12 hours a week.  And I make my own schedule.

It’s All About Me.

The place I am in now is one of balance.  I honestly don’t feel stressed or anxious on most days. I don’t feel overwhelmed or guilty and I am not dropping balls or ceaselessly apologizing to people for missing something.   I am meeting my needs and the needs of my family.  Not only that, I have time for friends.  FRIENDS!

Bit by bit, I have chipped away at the raw, hard, shapeless form I started with a year ago and am starting to relax into this new life I created.

It’s not perfect.  I still question myself and my choices every day.  I question if I deserve to be here, to be happy, to be balanced, to be in control of my choices.  I question my ability to do my job. I question my skills, my qualifications, my potential…But I remind myself to stay in the moment and embrace it.

And I do things to remind myself to stay true.  Like, I got a tattoo with my friend Aleigh.  Something I NEVER thought I would do- the tattoo, I mean.  It was a great day.

Until next time…

Did You Even Know? It’s a Crisis!!

I left that day and thought, “my GOD.  This cannot be over.  We are on the brink of so much greatness. This cannot be the end of my story here.” Until it was.

wordsmithstudios.org

Friends, I have been struggling with  this blog post!  I try to post something once a week.  I would love to do it more, but I just can’t pump stuff out that often and still maintain the rest of my life, which believe it or not, is incredibly busy for someone who is technically not working a full-time job.

Corey calls it the Type A personality in me.  “Denise, you have already gotten yourself into Type A mode again.  You’ve stressed yourself all out and this time, you’ve done it TO YOURSELF.”

True story.

Be that as it may, I have been working extra long on this post.  When I made Corey read it the first time, it was 2500+ words.  Most of my  posts are around 1000-1,500 and many out there are less.  When he finished reading he looked like I had smacked him around a little.  His eyes were all glassy and he was blinking a lot.

“Wow,” he said.  “I might need a little time to absorb this before I can comment on it.  I’m a little overwhelmed.”

Welllll…  Major changes and here we are.  I’ll get right to the point.

Maine, what is happening to us?  Here are some facts about Maine I bet many of you didn’t even know.  If you were aware already, you probably didn’t think much about it.  I know, I am making some assumptions, but frankly, I wouldn’t have thought much about it if I hadn’t been in workforce development for the last 15 years.

The Numbers

 Maine is in crisis.    We are the oldest state in the nation and more people are dying than being born.  So many people are dying that the birth rate can’t keep up with the death rate.  The baby boomers  are nearing retirement age, so we have more older workers in the workforce. As the baby boomers retire, employers can’t find  employees to fill their jobs.  We have MANY great colleges and universities in our state, but those graduates are leaving the state upon graduation.   They are heading out of Maine to pursue what they think are better jobs for better pay.

And they might be right.

Why would new businesses come to Maine without employees to fill their jobs?  Why would a business STAY in Maine without employees to hire?

We need to talk about it because Maine is such a great place to live and raise  a family. I am not alone when I say I believe in our communities and I care about our state.  There is unlimited potential we have yet to tap, potential living within the nooks and crannies of our mountains, along our rivers,  in the valleys, via the highways and byways that make up this state.

Here’s part of the problem and what prompted this post.  The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Grant.  It is a $9 million, federal, job training grant.

WIOA focuses on disadvantaged populations and dislocated workers seeking education, training, or employment.  It can fill in a lot of gaps for people that financial aid or other grants can’t always provide.  There are support services for childcare or transportation.  It pays for books.  It can also pay for adult ed courses like C.N.A or welding.  Classes that can help those who need a boost or aren’t ready to commit to college.  WIOA is the funding that pays for re-training for  dislocated workers; many of the laid off paper mill workers benefited from WIOA training funds.

There is a lot to the grant.   I don’t need to bog you down here (remember 2,500 words? ) If you want to learn more, you can google it.  I will also put a link at the bottom of this post.

I worked under the youth component of WIOA and focused on youth ages 16-24.  Anyone who knows me knows I loved my job, my team, those with whom I worked.  I did damn good work and was recognized for the various contributions I made locally, regionally, and even nationally.

Our organization did great work under that grant.   Everyone I worked with LOVED what they did.  They worked incredibly hard to serve a challenging population and busted ass to do it.

The problems arose when Governor LePage wanted control of that grant, then refused to disburse the funds.  It is why many people who worked under WIOA were laid off, both at my organization and throughout the state.  LePage was later ordered to release the funding and the service providers are now in the process of rebuilding their programs.

My initial draft of this post tried to explain the account in detail; it’s what made it so long.  The moral of the story is Governor LePage has no right to control the WIOA funding because it is a federal grant.  He was ordered to disperse the funds because holding them was illegal.

Why is WIOA and Maine’s employment crisis linked?

The goals of the WIOA grant line up quite nicely with the needs of our state: Work with employers to understand the job market.  Get people trained or get them  credentials that employers say they need. Get people hired.   Make sure they are hired at a livable wage.  Make sure they stay working.

Our  job was to work with individuals, assess their needs, remove their barriers, and  find them viable employment.

ULTIMATELY: Move disadvantaged populations off of state systems.  You know, like welfare?

Anyway,  last Monday I read in the newspaper that Governor LePage is  targeting WIOA funding again.

I get so fired up every time I think about it…About the time  we spent prior to being laid off, working to PROVE our worth to someone who, as our “leader,” should already know what we, as WIOA providers, were doing to work with employers, industry, and individuals.  In some cases, we were doing ground-breaking work.

Yet, he didn’t care.  Instead,  we wasted capacity to run reports and provide the same data over and over.  Internally, we analyzed data, asked questions, reviewed information, double checked files.

I remember our organization hosted this really great economic development conference with fabulous national speakers and great breakout sessions.  It was really well attended and just so freakin’ awesome!  I left that day and thought, “my GOD.  This cannot be over.  We are on the brink of so much greatness. This cannot be the end of my story here.”

Until it was.

Shame on you, Governor LePage

We just can’t lose sight of the most important aspect of our state: the people.  We can’t lose sight of what has made Maine  so great.

wordsmithstudios.org
Is it really?

Having worked with youth for so many years, I am also empowered by the amazing voices young people have raised over the issue of gun violence in the schools.  The march in D.C. and across the U.S should be a wake up call and a reminder that

OUR YOUTH ARE OUR FUTURE.

We cannot afford to let one single youth slip through the cracks of the system.  WIOA is a bridge and a lifeboat for many of those youth.

We need to do everything we can to empower  individuals to develop educational awareness, to learn to navigate systems, and to engage in their communities to become leaders and champions of their own lives and their own futures.

We need to train Mainers.  We need to re-train them.  We need to educate them.  We need to EMPLOY them and keep them employed.  We need to keep them in Maine.  We need to bring people TO Maine to stay.

We need to be helping people reach their potential.  We need to do the right thing.   Perhaps doing the right thing is holding our leaders accountable.  Perhaps it is holding our friends accountable.  Maybe it is listening to our subordinates.  Listening to our co-workers.   Maybe it is just working to keep our kids in Maine.  Or maybe it is organizing a million person march across the state or across the nation.  I don’t know what your right thing is…  But we all need to figure out how to make our contribution because our state, and so many other things,  is spiraling.  And that might sound a little melodramatic, but let it be so.

It is my story after all.

……………………………………………………………………………………….

For  statistics and percentages that back up my facts or for more info about  state, visit these websites:

www.maine.gov/labor/cwri       www.northeasternwdb.org

For the articles I refer to about Governor LePage and the job training funds, please go to:    bangordailynews.com

For information about WIOA, check out:http://www.doleta.gov/wioa/